1998 E3 Round-up
June 3, 1998
Part II: More FPS Games
I must admit I didn't have the highest expectations going into the show, but even with at best average expectations, I was pretty disappointed by Daikatana. It's not that it looks like a bad game or anything, it's just that it pales in comparison to the other FPS games at the show.
The architecture in Daikatana is really amazing.
But that doesn't mean there's nothing worthwhile about the game. Like Sin, Daikatana shows a definite emphasis on action over strategy. And, also like Sin, the level design looked great. Levels from each of the different time periods were playable, and the detail in some of the architecture was gorgeous. In the Roman period in particular, you could really tell the designers did their homework, studying the styles of the day, and creating original buildings in the same style, instead of simply reproducing already existing structures. The medieval period looked similarly detailed, and walking through the level looked cooler than the opening flythrough level in Unreal. Structures really fit the mood, with great towering walls, and textures that were appropriate to the time.
The weapons I saw really didn't impress me...they seemed more like the kind of weapons that were thrown in to look cool than actually serve any gameplay purpose. Perfect example: in the medieval period, there's a demonic staff weapon. Pressing the fire button shows a really cool animation as it draws a pentagram in mid-air, and then a demon pops up from the pentagram. It's really cool to watch...but what purpose does it serve? In the 20 or so minutes I spent playing the game, I never managed to actually kill anything with it, and actually, the demon kept killing me. It certainly looks cool, but personally, I'd rather have a plain old fashioned shotgun.
For better or worse, the textures are highly stylized.
The textures on the walls were great, and generally fit their respective time period, but personally (and I've spoken with some people who agree with me on this, and some who do not) I found many of the other textures completely unappealing visually. I applaud the Daikatana team for trying to do something different visually...the weapons, monsters, and characters are all very stylized...but I simply didn't like the style they chose. Hey, maybe it'll grow on me...but I doubt it.
What shocked me the most about Daikatana, was just how far from completion it looked. While games like Half-Life, Sin, and others really looked far along in development, Daikatana really didn't seem as polished. Perhaps it was a conscious choice not to show certain things, but major chunks of the game were nowhere to be found.
For example: ever since the game was announced, we've been told that you'll have two NPCs who follow you around throughout the game helping you. In this E3 demo, they were nowhere to be found. Something like this you would think would be one of the first things put into the game, and certainly showed off with beaming satisfaction at the largest trade show of the year.
The AI in the game was literally nowhere near done, and in many cases, the monsters wouldn't even come near you unless shot at first. This is fine if the game is being shown to illustrate the technology (Trespasser had its AI turned off if you recall) but when a game is playable on the convention floor, you would think they'd have stuck in something.
I suppose what really rubbed me the wrong way about Daikatana was how much it looked like just another FPS game, or even a really well done Quake II TC. If the game is to survive against such fierce competition as Half-Life and Duke Forever, it really has a long way to go.
Quake II 64
Activision was showing a version of Quake II 64 that wasn't especially far along in development, but it was there, so I figured it deserved a mention. The game controls similar to Goldeneye, with a combination of the analog stick and yellow directional keys to move, and the bottom-side trigger being used to fire.
Visually the game looked like well...Quake II. The level I saw was Base1, and it looked almost identical. The texture quality has been lowered to accommodate for the cartridge space limitations, and to compensate the N64 version has a bit more filtering...but it's still a nice transition.
All the weapons appear to be here, so if you've played Quake II on the PC you know what to expect. A little birdie whispered something intriguing to me...rumor has it that there will be another weapon, a new weapon, and supposedly it's BFG powerful. This is just hearsay...but it does indicate that a conscious effort is being made to make some differences, if only minor, between Quake II 64 and its PC big brother.
It took some practice, but I did see some people actually managing to rocket jump using the N64 controller, so expect everything you like about Quake II to be here. For Activision's sake I hope they throw in lots of extras (the inclusion of Dank & Scud on the Saturn version of Quake was a great idea...something along these lines would totally rock) otherwise those N64 owners out there who already own Quake II aren't going to bother.
Aliens vs. Predator
Remember Atari's failed Jaguar console system? Well, okay, maybe you don't. But, there were two really cool games out for it...Robotron, and Aliens vs. Predator. While Robotron isn't coming out in a massively multiplayer version anytime soon (one can dream, can't he?) at long last Aliens vs. Predator is coming home to the PC. To top it all off, the Jaguar's original team is working on it, ensuring the same level of quality.
The lack of a software renderer means these guys look great...but at a price.
Aliens vs. Predator is looking to be really fun...like the old Jaguar version, you get the chance to play as either an Alien, a Predator, or Meat...err...a Marine. Each class has its respective weapons and abilities: the Marine is armed to the teeth with those kick-ass machine gun/grenade launcher things from Aliens, the Predator has the weapons you remember from the movies, and the Alien has well...its biological weapons: the second-mouth attack, and acid spit. How cool is that?
Just these things alone make it a hoot in deathmatch...as the Alien, you can jump on all fours to hunt down your prey (think of the chase scenes in Alien3)...the Marine has that coolbeans radar from Aliens (and it bleeps in just that creepy way). The Predator can see in that funky heat-spectrum (although I'm not entirely sure just what the benefit of this is...if done right it could rock...imagine seeing people around corners by the shade of heat emanating from a doorway) and all in all the game really manages to capture the feel of the various movies it draws on. The deathmatches will allow for a whopping 32 players in whatever form they choose...so expect to see some major melee out there when this is released.
Check out the detail on this dude!
Single player was really what made the Jaguar version shine, and the PC game has no less than 50 levels, which sounds like a good thing on paper (hey, I didn't see 'em all...they could be really boring). If done right, Aliens vs. Predator could turn out to be a nice change of pace from the other FPS games out there. In the hardware category...this is one of the growing number of titles from major publishers that you'll need a 3D accelerator for. While it's disappointing to the many people out there who haven't gotten one yet, those who do will undoubtedly appreciate the surge in quality that comes from not having to worry about software rendering.
There's still more fps action to go! Hop over to page 2 to check it out!